For years now Corner Edge Solutions has been using VMware exclusively for all of our new server installs, and even for hardware upgrades by virtualizing the original server install and configuration to a new physical server with VMware. This goes for even a small, one server setup as well. We have felt this is a great way to increase reliability as well as improve disaster recovery times.
While having two complete setups of VMware is probably cost prohibitive, with the small footprint of VMware ESXi, you can use a simple workstation or even a laptop as a cold spare DR backup. As you’ll see below, I have easily installed VMware on my laptop, and with a large enough hard drive, and enough memory, I could run a small to medium office server environment setup on my one laptop, or even a mid-range business desktop. The cost of these is usually around $1500-2500, and when you consider the cost of a second server may come in at $5000 or more, this is a great low-budget way to have your office back up and working quickly in the event of a major disaster.
To do this simply, just power off the VM’s on a schedule that fits your DR needs and copy the files from the main DataStore and upload them the the DataStore on your backup setup. You will want to make sure your backup processor is a 64-bit proc with VT enabled if you are running 64-bit VM’s, you have enough storage space for the foreseeable future, and definitely install as much memory as your budget and workstation will allow, and that should be it.
You clearly shouldn’t expect the same performance of this setup as you would get from a true server, but it would get people back online and running again while you work on the main server.
Here is a quick picture I took of my laptop running VMware ESXi just for fun. I had installed ESXi on a USB stick, and booted to that when I powered on my laptop. This install was originally done on a PowerEdge 2950, and without any modifications to the install, it came up just fine on an Dell Latitude E6500. Simply carry a USB flash drive and a large external storage drive and you can have a backup ESXi server wherever you go.